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Colombian Peace Deal Supporter Reacts To Failure Of Referendum

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now we're going to talk to Professor Elvira Maria Restrepo at the University of Miami. For the past year she has been advising Colombian President Santos, and in that role, she has spent time educating Colombians in Miami and Bogota about the peace process. She says oftentimes she would see victims of the FARC in the audience.

ELVIRA MARIA RESTREPO: They are 8.1 million victims that have registered as victims officially. This presents 15 percent of the population. So this is why this process is so important.

MCEVERS: Restrepo says she was surprised and disappointed by the outcome of the referendum, and she has a few ideas about what went wrong.

RESTREPO: The first thing was, Santos is not a very popular president. President Santos' range of approval is around 30 percent. And this was seen by many as the Santos peace process. There's also Mr. Uribe, who is the former president of Colombia, was extremely popular, perhaps one of the most popular presidents in Latin American history. So the contrast of these two figures I think was - and obviously Uribe leading the no campaign was very hard to take politically.

I see another reason. There was a very clear message from the government, which is, if you vote yes, we end the war, and Colombia gets peace. If you vote no, we'll carry on in the war. But this was changed in the past months because the FARC said, look; we don't want to carry on this war. We're going to lay arms, and now we're going to use our words.

So this in a way broke the dichotomy that was easy to sell and led the opposition to thinking, oh, they want to negotiate anyway, so we're going to get a better deal. We're not going to negotiate impunity. We're not going to give our country to the FARC under these soft terms.

MCEVERS: How do you see the deal changing in a way that will satisfy people enough that they would vote yes?

RESTREPO: That is the most complicated thing because the FARC had said that this was kind of a maximum that they could accept. And I think the main two issues are the special justice that was approved for the FARC and their political inclusion, the fact that they could go into politics as soon...

MCEVERS: Right.

RESTREPO: ...As the next legislature. So those are the two main issues. How could they be negotiated? I think that is a huge thing.

MCEVERS: You talk about justice. I mean you mean whether or not certain members of the FARC will actually have to face trial and potentially prison time.

RESTREPO: Absolutely. Well, what was agreed was a different type of justice, something that goes more into a restorative form of justice for those members of FARC that had committed crimes against humanity and that cooperated with the truth. This is hard to explain in few words because most people see justice as synonymous to jail.

There was jail time in the peace agreement for those that didn't come up with a full truth, those that came up with a truth late or those that didn't cooperate. Those would end up in jail. And this is actually clearly stated in the peace process. But apparently I mean there are not enough for most Colombians, and I think this is something that needs to be re-evaluated.

MCEVERS: Do you think this referendum was a mistake?

RESTREPO: I wouldn't say mistake. I think 50 percent of peace processes that go through accords fail after five years because people do not reconcile. So I do not think it was a mistake. I think it was right. He didn't have to do it, and he did it. The mistake perhaps was to think that he had enough political capital to pass it and not to open more to the opposition when he had time to do so.

MCEVERS: Elvira Maria Restrepo, who is currently on leave from the University of Miami to work with President Santos of Colombia - she joined us from member station WLRN. Thank you very much.

RESTREPO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.